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Turkish police posed for picture with killer of Armenian journalist

Peter Popham
Saturday 03 February 2007 01:00 GMT

Less than a fortnight after huge crowds thronged the streets of Istanbul at the funeral of the murdered Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, chanting, "We are all Armenian," Turkey yesterday showed another, more sinister face.

Turkish newspapers and television news programmes carried images of the man accused of shooting Mr Dink posing proudly behind a Turkish flag with police officers. In the background was a poster bearing the words of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk: "The nation's land is sacred. It cannot be left to fate."

The video caused shock and consternation as commentators warned it was another sign of the growing power of Turkish ultra- nationalism as the nation gears up for parliamentary and presidential elections later this year.

Ismet Berkan, editor of the liberal newspaper Radikal, said that the release of the video was like killing Mr Dink a second time. It proved, he claimed, "that the murderer and his associates are not alone, that their supporters ... have penetrated all segments of the state."

Hrant Dink was the founder and editor of Agos, the weekly newspaper of Turkey's small and beleaguered Armenian population. Since launching the paper he had fought tirelessly to improve relations between Turkey and Armenia, which have been in deep freeze since the extermination of Armenia's large community in Anatolia between 1915 and 1917, the first genocide of the 20th century.

Mr Dink told Turks to face the facts about the genocide, but his great goal was reconciliation. When France passed a law making denial of the Armenian genocide a criminal offence, for example, Mr Dink declared that he would go to France to deny it himself. He wrote that Armenians should "clear their blood of hatred for the Turks".

Mangled in reiteration by Turkish nationalist websites, these words became "Turkish blood is dirty" - sparking 17-year-old Ogun Samast to travel to Istanbul from the Black Sea city of Trabzon and shoot Mr Dink outside his office. Seven others, all from Trabzon, have now been arrested for involvement.

A police spokesperson said an investigation into the video footage and its leaking was under way.

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